Tag Archives: Resolutions

She stuck a feather in her cap and called it macaroni

Be creative is my mantra for 2017.

cre·a·tive /krēˈādiv/ relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work

That’s me this year. A regular fountain of original ideas.

But it’s tough to be creative when one is preparing paperwork to have the taxes done or packing, say, every single thing you own. Paperwork and packing are boring.

But I’m sneaking in a little originality when I can.

So today, I’m cleaning out the pantry.

(Any good native of Minnesota starts every story with “so”).

Anyway, I’m cleaning out the pantry, and I find a plethora of pasta.

I didn’t exactly “find” it. I knew it was there, haunting me in my dreams. I’ve tried to think up ways to eat it up, but there was just so much. Or more precisely, so many. Lots of packages, mostly half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective on the world).

Lasagna noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles. Rotini, cavatelli, gemelli, fusilli, elbow macaroni, skinny elbow macaroni, spaghetti, angel hair spaghetti, quinoa spaghetti, supergrain spaghetti, multi-grain spaghetti, ready-cut spaghetti. And stelline (for your chicken and stars soup, you know).

Seventeen packages.

Yes, I know. Please don’t heap any more guilt on me. Why did I buy so much? Why haven’t we eaten it? Why did I keep it?

So I came up with an ingenious way to get rid of it without just throwing it away.

I posted the following on the local Facebook classifieds page:

Do kids today still do macaroni art? I’ve got 17 opened boxes and bags of various kinds of pasta that would work for a daycare or preschool. Yes, 17 — don’t judge. I can’t give away to the food pantry because it’s open, but the waste of dumping seems extravagant. FREE — all you’ve got to do it pick it up. Anyone interested?

As any good marketer knows, presentation matters. So rather than post a picture of a messy pile of half-empty pasta containers, I got creative. (Do you feel like you’re listening to a Lake Wobegon story yet?)

macaroni-art

This is me. Looking at you.

Hey, it worked! Someone’s coming for my leftover pasta on Monday.

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Capote thriller wrapped up my year in books

The last book I read in 2015 was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and I read it in one day.

In Cold BloodA classic, it is, and for good reason. I chose it because I qualified it as “a book that came out the year I was born,” as prescribed by the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge, which I took seriously until the very last day of 2015. In Cold Blood came out in 1965, which, if you want to get technical about it, is a year before I was born, but it was one of the year’s talkers the year I was born, so be it.

Capote (appropriately named as Truman — true man) told the story of the Clutter family quadruple murder in 1959 by two, well, cold killers who eventually meet their end with a hangman’s noose. The story, getting into the both the victims’ and the killers’ heads as Capote does with exacting descriptions, is chilling. I’m not a fan of capital punishment, but this book drives home why it exists. I can’t imagine the amount of research Capote undertook to write the story, but it amazed this true-story writer.

popsugar

As I closed the last page, I claimed to have read 51 books in 2015, 12 short of my goal. And to be fair, I included my running journal, my own book (How to Look Hot & Feel Amazing in Your 40s) and three books I designed in 2015 in the tally (hey! I read them, too!). I read 12 books I couldn’t classify in the challenge, and failed to read 13 books PopSugar prescribed (a popular author’s first book, a book at the bottom of your to-read list, a book that scares you, a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, a trilogy, a book with a color in the title, a book that takes place in your hometown, a book that was originally written in a different language, a book written by an author with your same initials, a play and a banned book).

Still, by following the challenge, I read quite a few books I never would have read otherwise, including In Cold Blood. There were also Anne of Green Gables, Seconds, Vintage Munro and Of Human Bondage. So, I expanded my horizons, and that’s what good books are meant to do.

I’m not attempting to read 63 books in 2016 or accomplish any challenge, PopSugar’s or otherwise. It was too much guilt, I’ll be honest, when I was savoring a book or choosing one that didn’t qualify in the challenge. Reading is a pleasure not a chore, and I don’t need any more guilt in my life.

So, speaking of pleasure, my favorite books in 2015 included The Light of the World, All the Light We Cannot See and  Pioneer GirlWhat were your favorites? Maybe you’ll recommend my next great read.

Hook me up, it’s resolution time

Connect.

That’s the theme for my 2016 resolutions. My mantra.

The truth is, life is pretty great. And I’m feeling pretty good about things. About me. About life.

So my list of New Year’s resolutions isn’t long. I don’t need to quit smoking. Or give up chocolate. Or stop procrastinating.

I want more. Not less. More friends. Deeper relationships. More kissing.

And I want to connect the dots. Particularly on my unfinished manuscript and the two books I’ve outlined but not written. It’s a lot of dots.

So here’s to more. More connections. Happy new year!

Ode to inertia

We’re heading into the weekend. It’s a new month Sunday. Maybe you’re mourning your unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions.

Time for a pep talk.

Maybe you didn’t get done in January what you wanted to get done because you needed a break.

Maybe you needed some do-nothing time.

Maybe life isn’t about getting stuff done.

This is a difficult-to-swallow prescription for a Minnesota-born girl with Scandinavian and Germanic blood in her veins.

Sloth is sinful.

It’s one of the seven deadly sins you know! I’m sure you know. Anyone’s who’s seen Morgan Freeman crack the serial killer’s code in the movie Se7en knows how deadly sloth can be.

Wrong!

While wasting one’s talents with inaction may be unfortunate if not deplorable, I maintain there’s a difference between sloth and rest.

God created us to rest as much as He created us to work.

For eight hours a day, our bodies are rendered immobile by sleep. If one goes long enough without sleep, one dies, that’s how important sleep is.

If God created us to rest for eight hours a day, he certainly intends for us to rest at other times, too.

There are many examples of this yin and yang (if you’ll permit me to mix my spiritual metaphors).

We breathe in. We breathe out.

The sun rises. The sun sets.

Plants grow in spring and summer. They freeze in autumn and winter.

We are born. We die.

Rest is actually a gift. To feel guilty for taking a break is wasted emotion. We should relish rest, appreciate it for the gift that it is. Rest reinvigorates us for the work ahead.

Watching the clouds drift by is important work. Reading fiction is a creative distraction. Binge-watching HBO television series is, well, it’s sort of inconsequential but not completely worthless. You get my point.

So if you’ve gotten through January without accomplishing anything in the first twelfth of the new year, if you’re wrapping up your week thinking you were entirely too unproductive to deserve a whole weekend of lethargy, I think you’re being too hard on yourself.

You deserve a break sometimes, too. Be fully present for your rest. Savor your inertia.

My work is hereby done. Time to take a break.

Dear Friend, Here are my hopes for you in the new year

I resolve to treat myself gently in 2015.

Regular readers know I am a resolutions junkie. I make New Year’s Resolutions every year, and some years they even have themes. Sometimes I even stick to them.

It’s the first day of a whole new year, a whole new chance to make good on the potential endowed to me by the Creator. I love a clean slate.

This year, my resolutions spring from my Best Friend Self, described persuasively by Martha Beck in this month’s O Magazine as the “cheerful, kind, patient version” of me. Instead of constantly expecting more of myself and berating myself with an inner dialogue that sounds more like a jerk boss than an ardent fan, I will be my own best friend in 2015.

I’m sharing my resolutions here for two reasons. No. 1, making my resolutions public is a trick to keep me accountable. And No. 2, phrased in the words of a best friend, they sound a lot more appealing than those horrible SMART-list goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely — ugh) written by a professional in Human Resources. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too.

My 2015 New Year’s Resolutions 

Friend, I’m here for you whenever you feel stressed, fat or lazy. You’re doing great. God loves you and so do I. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You ought to slow down, focus on the big stuff and savor the small stuff.

I’m behind you in your writing goals in 2015. Four new independently published books? You can do it. You have two-and-a-half manuscripts in draft form already!

savor

I hope you savor your adventures this year, and the people with whom you enjoy them. Be present. Listen fully. Follow your intuition.

And reading, too — savor it! Spend that last hour before bedtime winding down, reading paper books, instead of playing mindless games of Scrabble on your iPad. Really, nobody is saying anything that important on Facebook after 9 p.m. Sixty-three books in 2015? You can do it.

And I’d love to see your inner artist take flight decorating your home with images of those adventures and loved ones you’re savoring this year. Time to fill those walls in the house and camper with pretty pictures. You deserve it.

You’ve already taken the first step: You expressed your wishes, releasing them into the Universe. Now reward yourself with a nice cup of hot tea. Mm.

The habit of housekeeping elevates the mundane to the sublime

The Power of the Mundane resonates with me.

Rachael at Frugal Faye blogs about this in “The Power of the Mundane: Why I Love Housekeeping.”

She describes the Power of the Mundane as “sameness and routine that creates that sense of ‘this is how life is,'” and she argues that there is beauty in housekeeping exactly because it involves “repeated activities that are completed predictably over and over and over”:

“The cumulative years of those daily activities: cooking dinner, folding laundry, tidying up all matter. In a frantic, unpredictable world, these monotonous chores and exercises are comfort and stability.”

Is that the most beautiful description of housekeeping you’ve ever heard?

It makes so much sense to laud the power of repetition, however boring it may be. Exercising or eating a banana for breakfast can be boring, too, but exercising every day or eating fruit for breakfast every morning can change your health. Socking away a little bit of every paycheck in a 401(k) plan is not nearly as fun as spending it, but do that with every paycheck and in time, you’ll have a nest egg worth thousands of dollars. Arriving on time to work, lunch dates and appointments takes constant effort, but over time, it earns you a reputation of dependability.

Mahatma Gandhi knew the power of repetition, too, when he said: “Your actions become your habits, your habits become your values.”

Among my “what matters” resolutions this year is to “Make a comfortable home: Cook, clean, decorate, organize.”

It is not exactly the sort of resolution I would have made 10 years ago when I aspired to climb the corporate ladder and I was married to a man who did almost all the housekeeping.

But I am in a different place with a new man now. Part of my desire to create a comfortable home is altruistic (because I know my Beloved values it) and part of it is selfish (because if I’m going to spend as much time in my home as I do, it might as well be clean and pretty). Mucking out and redecorating my home office last year reminded me how peaceful a beautiful space can be.

The cooking part of the resolution is easier for me. Cooking is creative. I love assembling various ingredients I happen to have on hand into a creative dish (like frittata or soup). I love garnishes, too. Even when it’s just me and my Beloved, the plate is not complete unless it’s sprinkled with parsley or there’s a pickle on it, and I love putting dip into little metal cups on my plate.

Still, I hate housekeeping. Hate, hate, hate. But I realize if I want to achieve this resolution to make a comfortable home, I need to figure out how to make peace with these repetitive tasks.

Do I want to be known as the grumpy woman with a clean house or the cheerful lady with a clean house? The house deserves to be neat and clean in any case; I have the power to change my attitude.

I am reminded of what Thich Nhat Hanh writes about washing dishes in Peace is Every Step:

“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water and each movement of my hands.”

I shall attempt to harness the Power of the Mundane this year and be mindful about housekeeping. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my little place in it.

A year in books at Minnesota Transplant’s house

With millions of books to read and more being published every day, I thought it bold to resolve to read 52 books in 2013. That’s only a book a week, after all, and even at that pace, I would barely scratch the surface of a pimple on the face of all that’s possible to read in a year.

But I couldn’t manage even that.

I read 33 books in 2013 (I keep track of such things on Goodreads, which I recommend for anyone who enjoys reading).

Surprisingly, the average reader on Goodreads pledged to read 57 books this year. Wow! I’m such a slacker. I’m aware of one prominent online book reviewer who claims to have read 510 books this year (seriously? A book and a half a day?); maybe it’s outliers like her who skew the averages.

In any case, perhaps I shall resolve to read 57 books in 2014. But today, I’m sharing the list of books I read in 2013. I’ve noted the ones that earned 5-star reviews from me, marked the titles that are self-published (because as a self-published author myself, I like to call attention to such things) and provided links to my reviews (you know, if you’re looking for some good reads yourself in 2014).

Nonfiction

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

***** Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

***** Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Bossypants by Tina Fey

The New Members’ Handbook for the Christian Believer by Sonya Privette-James (self-published)

***** Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly

Letters From Mom: A Daughter’s Journal of Healing by Joyce Madeline Kocinski (self-published)

***** The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible by Jonathan Kirsch

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Subjective Recollections from a Terminally Optimistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

The Simplesizing Break by Jane Carroo (self-published)

***** Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall

***** A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

A Woman of Science: An Extraordinary Journey of Love, Discovery and the Sex Life of Mushrooms by Cardy Raper

The Omni Diet: Two Weeks to Lose Weight, Reverse Illness and Control Your Genes by Tana Amen

Your 14-Day Total Shape-Up Plan by Annette Capone

***** Expect This by Heather Slee (self-published)

Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Women Run by Kristin Armstrong

Walking Toward the Light: A Journey in Forgiveness and Death by Karen Todd Scarpulla (self-published)

***** On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

***** The Liar’s Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr

Fiction

Passion Killer by Yvonne McEvaddy (self-published)

The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik

***** The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Butter by Anne Panning

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Home Wrecker: Shattered Reality by Brenda Perlin (self-published)

Giving Up the Ghost by Mary Logue

Finding Summerland by Paige Bleu (self-published)

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee

***** The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This Broken Earth by Roger Colby (self-published)